If you can brave the mid-November cold, you’re in for a treat this week.
There were multiple reports of a bright shooting star in Alabama Monday night, likely the result of the Leonid meteor shower. The Leonids intensify this week after midnight in the early morning of Friday, November 18.
According to NASA, when the meteor shower is active throughout the month, 15-20 meteors can be seen per hour at its peak.
Leonids are known for being colorful, bright, and fast — they can travel as fast as 44 miles per second — with trails lasting a few seconds as they move across the sky, and some are even visible in moonlight.
The Leonids, named for the constellation Leo, from which it appears to have originated, were created by the debris left behind by Comet Temple-Tuttle. Comet Temple-Tuttle takes 33 years to orbit the Sun once. The comet is relatively small – its nucleus is 2.24 miles in diameter.
However, don’t limit your view to just around the Leo constellation. The Leonids are actually better viewed away from the beam: they appear longer and more beautiful from this perspective. If you look directly at the beam, you’ll find that the meteors will be smaller — a result of perspective, NASA said.
Better to go somewhere dark to watch the meteor shower. City lights and their reflections can obscure shooting stars. It takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so don’t worry if you don’t see them right away.